Gyanvapi Mosque

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Gyan Vapi mosque
Gyanvapi Mosque.jpg
Gyanvapi Mosque is located in Uttar Pradesh
Gyanvapi Mosque
Location in Uttar Pradesh, India
Basic information
Location Varanasi, India
Geographic coordinates 25°18′40″N 83°00′38″E / 25.311229°N 83.010461°E / 25.311229; 83.010461Coordinates: 25°18′40″N 83°00′38″E / 25.311229°N 83.010461°E / 25.311229; 83.010461
Affiliation Islam
State Uttar Pradesh
Architectural description
Completed 1669
Dome(s) 3
Minaret(s) 2
Minaret height 71 m

The Gyanvapi mosque is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was constructed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after he demolished the original Kashi Vishwanath temple at the site. It is located north of Dashaswamedh Ghat, near Lalita Ghat along the river Ganges.

It is a Jama Masjid located in the heart of the Varanasi city.[1] It is administered by Anjuman Inthazamiya Masajid (AIM).[2]


The mosque was built by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669 CE, after destroying the Kashi Vishwanath temple located on the site. The mosque is named after Gyanvapi ("the well of knowledge"), which is situated between the temple and the mosque. The well is believed by Hindus to be the location where the sacred Shiva linga icon of the temple was hidden, before the temple was razed by Aurangzeb.[3]

The temple had been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times earlier. The temple structure that existed prior to the construction of the mosque was most probably built by Raja Man Singh during Akbar's reign.[4]

Aurangzeb's demolition of the temple was motivated by the escape of the Maratha king Shivaji, and the rebellion of local zamindars (landowners). Jai Singh I, the grandson of Raja Man Singh, is said to have facilitated Shivaji's escape from Agra. Some of the zamindars may have helped Shivaji avoid the Mughal authorities. In addition, there were reports of Brahmins interfering with the Islamic teaching. The temple's demolition was intended as a warning to the anti-Mughal factions and Hindu religious leaders in the city.[4]

Demolition concerns[edit]

The Maratha ruler Malhar Rao Holkar (1693-1766) wanted to demolish the mosque and reconstruct Vishweshwar temple at the site.[5] However, he never actually did that. Later, in 1780, his daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present Kashi Vishwanath Temple adjacent to the mosque.

In the 1990s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) campaigned to reclaim the sites of the mosques constructed after demolition of Hindu temples. After the demolition of the Babri mosque in December 1992, about a thousand policemen were deployed to prevent a similar incident at the Gyanvapi mosque site.[6] The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, who supported the demand for reclaiming Babri mosque, opposed VHP's similar demand for Gyanvapi, on the grounds that it was an actively used mosque.[7] The mosque receives protection under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.[8]


Gyanvapi, the original holy well between the temple and mosque

The façade is modeled partially on the Taj Mahal's entrance.[4] The mosque features 71m high minarets. One of the minarets collapsed during the 1948 floods in the city. The remains of the erstwhile temple can be seen in the foundation, the columns and at the rear part of the mosque.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diane P. Mines; Sarah Lamb (2002). Everyday Life in South Asia. Indiana University Press. pp. 344–. ISBN 0-253-34080-2. 
  2. ^ "VHP game in Benares, with official blessings". Frontline (S. Rangarajan for Kasturi & Sons) 12 (14-19): 14. 1995. 
  3. ^ Good Earth Varanasi City Guide. Eicher Goodearth Limited. 2002. pp. 95–. ISBN 978-81-87780-04-5. 
  4. ^ a b c Catherine B. Asher (24 September 1992). Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge University Press. pp. 278–279. ISBN 978-0-521-26728-1. 
  5. ^ Madhuri Desai (2007). Resurrecting Banaras: Urban Space, Architecture and Religious Boundaries. ProQuest. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-549-52839-5. 
  6. ^ Sanjoy Majumder (2004-03-25). "Cracking India's Muslim vote". Uttar Pradesh: BBC News. 
  7. ^ Manjari Katju (1 January 2003). Vishva Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics. Orient Blackswan. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-81-250-2476-7. 
  8. ^ "Mosques will not be surrendered, says Babri panel". Indian Express (New Delhi). Press Trust Of India. 1999-09-15. 
  9. ^ Vanessa Betts; Victoria McCulloch (30 October 2013). Delhi to Kolkata Footprint Focus Guide. Footprint Travel Guides. pp. 108–. ISBN 978-1-909268-40-1.